NEW YORK— Fast-food workers met with City Council members today to urge them to quickly pass a package of laws that would provide for more regular schedules in the industry so that they can plan their lives and support their families.
In the first days of Donald Trump’s presidency, workers are taking action to protect the gains they have won in New York and they are calling on City Council members for their support in their fight for a fair work week.
“A big problem for workers in our industry is the last-minute scheduling changes that make it impossible to plan our lives and take care of our families,” said Elexus El, who works at KFC in Brooklyn. “I get my hours cut and I’m struggling to make enough to support myself, my mom and my siblings.”
Workers are also calling on the council to pass the Fast-Food Worker Empowerment Act, a first-of-its-kind bill that would enable fast-food workers to set up a non-profit organization to fight for themselves and their communities.
“After all that we’ve achieved in the Fight for $15 movement here in New York City, we realized that now more than ever we need to forma an organization to unite our voices on the issues that matter to us, our families and our neighborhoods,” Janice Brooks, who works at Subway in Brooklyn. “That’s the way we can move forward in the fight for good jobs and respect.”
Fast-food workers, and members of 32BJ who have supported the Fight for $15 since the first strike over four years ago, are urging the Council to hold a hearing on the bills and pass them as soon as possible.
Community and union allies have also joined the fight and today 26 organizations– including the NAACP, National Action Network and Planned Parenthood–released an opened letter to City Council members urging them to “pass these laws without delay.”
“As workers face threats from the new administration in Washington, we’re committed to keeping New York City a worker-friendly city and we thank the council members who are standing with us,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa.
Three scheduling bills introduced in the City Council require fast-food stores to give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules and pay a “penalty” to workers if schedules are changed at the last minute; give current employees more hours before hiring new part-time workers to fill open shifts; and place restrictions on “clopenings,” the practice of requiring workers who close a store one night to come back a few hours later to open it the next morning.
A fourth bill, the Fast-Food Worker Empowerment Act, would require employers to honor workers’ requests to deduct voluntary contributions from their paycheck to a not-for-profit organization that could fight for the workers, their families and their communities.
The bills all have over 30 co-sponsors in the City Council.
“Without a stable work schedule, who can build a stable life?” asked Council Member Brad Lander. “New Yorkers trying to pay the rent and feed their families should not be subject to the whims of shift cancellations and last minute changes to their hours. I’m proud that the New York City Council is helping fast food workers achieve a fair work week – with two weeks’ advance notice and a pathway to full-time hours – and making sure that all workers can request schedule flexibility for caregiving, schools and the realities of their lives.”
“Now more than ever, New York City needs to step up and be a nationwide leader in labor rights,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “It’s simply unfair when an employee is pressured to report to work at a moment’s notice or asked to work a night shift, immediately followed by an early-morning shift. With reasonable scheduling practices, we can immediately bring greater fairness into the everyday lives of thousands of hard-working New Yorkers. I thank my fellow council members and 32BJ for being leaders on labor rights, as well as the thousands of dedicated employees who make our city run. They deserve better, and that’s what we will deliver.”
“Fast food workers should get the respect and dignity that they deserve, and the laws we will be hearing in the City Council will help to ensure they are not taken advantage of and they have every opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “I would like to thank all the advocates here today for giving voice to working families across the city.”
“With the service industry continuing to grow and with more and more men and women employed in fast food, it’s only right that as New Yorkers we demonstrate a respect for their work,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “That’s the intent of these bills, and I’m proud to support them.”
“Fast food workers deserve far better opportunities, wages, and working conditions than they currently endure,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “The progress we have made over the past few years is in danger as we are now facing a new presidential administration threatening to enact policies that are detrimental to low-wage workers across the country. I am proud to support increasing protections for fast-food employees, because we have an obligation to set the highest standards for all workers.”
The Fight for $15 started in New York City in 2012, when 200 brave fast-food workers walked off their jobs, demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. The movement has spread to cities around the world and to industries across the low-wage service economy including home care and child care. Once considered a long shot, workers have won $15 in California and New York State, in cities like Washington, D.C. and Seattle, and in companies and industries all around the nation. Learn more at fightfor15.org.
With 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.